There are no native snakes in Hawaii. Regardless, several species, including yellow-bellied sea snakes and brahminy blind snakes, have found their way to the islands.
These snakes may have been introduced to these islands either directly or indirectly by humans. To prevent invasive snake species from destroying the island’s natural biodiversity, the government has made it illegal to own them.
List of Wild Snakes in Hawaii
1. Yellow-bellied Sea Snake (Pelamis platurus)
The yellow-bellied sea snake is a very venomous snake in the family Elapidae, found in tropical oceanic water except for the Atlantic Ocean.
The snake primarily resides in tropical areas, although they are occasionally spotted in calmer waters (including Hawaii), probably swept by the ocean currents.
This is the only sea snake in Hawaii you are likely to see, and even this one is very rare.
It has a vivid yellow underside, with the back of dark blue-gray, brown, or gray. They thrive in waters ranging from 20 to 30 degrees C. That is why they are primarily found in shallow shore waters.
While the yellow-bellied sea snake is venomous, it is very docile and rarely attacks humans. They mostly opt to flee, although it is not advisable to be very close to them.
That said, the snake is still very dangerous, and a single bite contains 1.0 to 4.0 mg of venom. The venom contains both neurotoxins and isotoxins enough to kill a human in minutes.
Lastly, they are not good slithers and rarely ever leave the sea and rarely come into contact with people.
Related: Sea Snakes vs Land Snakes
2. Brahminy Blind Snake (Ramphotyphylops braminus)
The Brahminy blind snake is believed to be native to Asia; however, it has spread via shipment throughout tropical and subtropical parts of the world.
It is the tiniest snake on earth, measuring less than 16.5 cm (6 inches) long.
It is the only parthenogenetic snake known, meaning it can lay unfertilized eggs that hatch to become female clones. It is believed that all brahminy blind snakes are female.
This snake is also not native to Hawaii, but it is among the two species of snake you could come across. It was introduced to Hawaii in potting soil from plants, most probably from the Philippines, in the 1930s. They feed on ants, termites, and other arthropods.
Related: 7 Types of Blind Snakes
Other Snakes Ever Spotted in Hawaii
Apart from the above two snakes found in Hawaii, there are also several incidents of other species that have ever made their way to the islands.
3. Brown Tree Snakes (Boiga irregularis)
This snake is not native to Hawaii, and to now, it is found in the wild on none of the islands.
However, Hawaii’s department of agriculture imported 4 dangerous male brown tree snakes to prevent the species from getting to the islands.
These snakes were used to train sniffer dogs to hunt for other snakes that would enter the island by plane, ship, or cargo.
4. Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor priapus)
While this snake is not found in Hawaii, one managed to get to the island. This snake hitched a free ride from Florida to Hawaii in a backpack of a traveler.
The southern black racer is a common snake in Florida, and it’s a non-venomous snake and a constrictor.
Although it’s illegal to have or import a snake into Hawaii, there is no penalty for accidentally bringing snakes to Hawaii. The snake was spotted slithering out of the bag by the owner and immediately contacted the authorities.
5. Garter Snake (Thamnophis)
Garter snakes have only been spotted in Hawaii twice- both were accidentally brought to the island.
In 2004, a garter snake 13 inches long was discovered at a supermarket where a shipment of Christmas trees was being unloaded from Oregon.
The second snake was identified as a garter snake in 2020 and held for inspection. It was 9 inches, found injured, and died a short time later. Apart from the two incidents, there are no garter snakes ever seen in Hawaii.
6. Ball Python (Python regius)
Ball pythons are common in and native to west and central Africa and are non-venomous snakes. They are mostly kept as pets and mainly in the United States.
In June 2018, county workers found a 4.5-foot long ball python at the south Hilo sanitary landfill. In the same year, October, a woman found a 3 feet long ball python after running it over in her car near the same area.
An ambulance crew captured the live ball python in Hilo and turned it to the authorities. The snake was about 4 feet, weighing about 3 pounds.
The pythons appeared to be in good condition in the three incidents, indicating that they might have been smuggled into Hawaii and kept as pets. Like other snakes, if allowed to be free in Hawaii, they could devastate Hawaii’s balanced ecosystem.
7. The Boa Constrictor (Boidae constrictor)
This non-venomous snake is native to central and South America and grows up to 12 feet in length.
A farmworker in Kunia (Hawaii) found a massive nine-foot boa constrictor. The boa was spotted near bushes along kunai road, which he turned to the authorities.
It is not known how the snake got to Hawaii, but it is not the only boa constrictor ever found. In March 2019, a five-foot boa was found in kunai on the island of Oahu. In 2013 another boa was killed after being run over while crossing a highway.
They are very good at killing their prey and are a significant threat to Hawaii’s environment. They are a threat to even public and small pets.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why snakes are illegal in Hawaii?
It’s true that no snake is native to Hawaii and is therefore regulated not to be introduced to the delicate Hawaii ecosystem. If many snakes could be introduced to this island, it could pose a threat to this unique environment.
There are no snakes predators in Hawaii, and having snakes on this island would quickly kill the native birds and animals. To prevent this, the government authorities made it illegal to bring any snake to Hawaii, imposing severe punishment, including three years imprisonment or a fine of $200,000. Despite this, there are still snakes ever found either accidentally or illegally imported.
How do snakes get to Hawaii?
The only snake that may have gotten to Hawaii on its own is the yellow-bellied sea snake. In most cases, snakes get to Hawaii accidentally by hitchhiking on a boat or even a plane.
Also, Hawaii had imported four brown tree snakes to help prevent snakes from getting to the land using dog sniffers. There may also be black market traders who import them to be kept as pets despite the regulations prohibiting it.
While there have been several snake encounters in Hawaii, the only snakes living in Hawaii are the yellow-bellied sea snake and brahminy blind snakes.
All the other snakes have been illegally or accidentally imported, and if found, they are taken by the authorities.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.